Photo Courtesy of U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds Facebook
Reymond Rivas, 15, of Belton, was diagnosed with acute and chronic leukemia at a young age. With the help of the Make a Wish Foundation, Rivas became an honorary United States Air Force Thunderbird.

Make-a-Wish turns Belton teen into Honorary Thunderbird

by / 0 Comments / 93 View / August 7, 2016

By Katherine Gibbs
Correspondent

Reymond Rivas, 15, visited Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas, Nev., on July 19 with his family to get a behind-the-scenes look at what it’s like to be a pilot for the U.S. Air Force, made possible by the Make-a-Wish Foundation.
Rivas’ father likes to build model aircrafts so when Reymond was 10, he was inspired to become a pilot. Rivas had trouble figuring out what he wanted for his wish so he got some inspiration from his dad since they had bonded over aircrafts together. “I did have trouble. My dad is the one that suggested it to me,” Rivas said.
Rivas was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia on Dec. 28, 2013. As soon as he was diagnosed, the specialists that they dealt with let them know that he would be able to make a wish. The family met with the people from Make-a-Wish Foundation a few months ago because they wanted to wait until he was in better health before fulfilling his wish. Vivian Cook, Rivas’s mother said, “We didn’t want to worry about if his blood counts would drop or if we were to have an instance where he would get sick because the main concern for a child with leukemia is their immune system.”
At the very beginning of his treatment his body reacted very negatively to chemotherapy, blood transfusions, and the platelet transfusions. During this time, he was admitted to the hospital for several weeks at a time.
The process went by very quickly so they chose the dates the family would be free and that corresponded with the days that they were doing Exercise Red Flag and Make-a-Wish Foundation set it up. Exercise Red Flag, is combat training for the U.S. Air Force, where pilots from all over the nation and our allies come a couple times a year to participate in some war games. The family got to watch an exercise take place and since it was classified they had to turn in their electronics. Rivas got to sit in a few aircraft but he didn’t get to go up in any of them because of health concerns.
“They did so much more than we ever imagined. His actual wish itself was to participate in Exercise Red Flag. Make-a-Wish also prebooked us for a whole bunch of other activities as a family,” said Cook.

Photo Courtesy of U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds Facebook Reymond Rivas, 15, visited Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas, Nev., on July 19 with his family to get a behind-the-scenes look at what it’s like to be a pilot for the U.S. Air Force, made possible by the Make-a-Wish Foundation.

Photo Courtesy of U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds Facebook
Reymond Rivas, 15, visited Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas, Nev., on July 19 with his family to get a behind-the-scenes look at what it’s like to be a pilot for the U.S. Air Force, made possible by the Make-a-Wish Foundation.

They stayed in Las Vegas for a few more days and saw shows until they came home on Saturday. “I loved it. Mostly the day we spent on the base but just all the extra side things that they did for us,” said Rivas.
After a few months of treatment began, Rivas was in remission but the battle wasn’t over yet. Rivas’s treatment plan is for three years and is designed to keep him in remission for the rest of his life. The family had two scares in the past two years where they believed that he was relapsing, but the tests were wrong. Now that he is in the maintenance phase of treatment he only goes once every month to get chemotherapy and blood count checks. “It’s just something extra to deal with in life that I could get through,” said Rivas. Rivas has not had any complications in almost a year.